Senate passes bill to halt undervaluing of Chinese yuan

Jeremy Hobson: We've heard complaints for years about what China's currency is doing to the U.S. economy. Washington says the yuan is undervalued, and that that's making it much easier for China to sell cheap goods to us -- and harder for us to sell anything to them.

Well, late yesterday, the Senate took up a controversial bill co-sponsored by New York Democrat Charles Schumer.

Charles Schumer: American businesses have said enough is enough -- when is this government going to say enough is enough? Instead of just twiddling our thumbs, and hoping and praying that China might change out of the goodness of their hearts.

Apparently the answer to that question is October 11th, 2011 -- also known as yesterday. The Senate passed the bill, which would allow the U.S. to slap tariffs on products from countries that are undervaluing their currencies.

Marketplace China bureau chief Rob Schmitz has more from Shanghai.


Rob Schmitz: In 2005, a group of senators blamed China for stealing American jobs by undervaluing its currency. In retaliation, they wrote a bill that would have imposed tariffs on Chinese products.

As economist Arthur Kroeber remembers, it didn't pass.

Arthur Kroeber: They said the Chinese currency was 25 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar. Since that time, the Chinese currency has appreciated a bit more than 25 percent against the U.S. dollar.

But now, the same senators have authored pretty much the same bill. Despite the currency's appreciation over the years, they even have the same complaint -- the Chinese yuan is still 25 percent undervalued.

The Chinese reaction to this resembles a street-full of blaring horns. Shanghai businessman Qin Bin ignores the honking and spouts off an angry reaction himself. The Americans are just looking for someone else to blame for their own economic problems, Qin says.

The state-run media today ran with headlines threatening the U.S. with a trade war should the newest currency bill become law.

Economist Kroeber says no need for currency weapons. All the Chinese would need to do, he says, is take the case to the WTO -- and as the Obama administration has already hinted, China would likely win.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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